A friend dropped a note the other day to let me know that Michael Douglas, the Hollywood uber-liberal who starred in Oliver Stone's Wall Street and Rob Reiner's The American President has apparently been cast as Ronald Reagan in an upcoming big-budget film about the Reykjavik summit.
For those who have forgotten, it was at the Reykjavik, Iceland summit that then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev demanded America abandon its effort to develop a defense against ballistic missile attack, walking out when Reagan said, "Nyet." At the time, the meeting was branded a failure by western politicians and the liberal press—with Reagan getting the blame.
As we now know, however, Reagan's refusal to give up on what his critics famously called "Star Wars" helped accelerate the collapse of the Soviet Union and end the Cold War. It was a tremendous victory.
Done right, with a script that holds to the actual history and not some post-historical fantasy of moral equivalence, it could be a hell of a picture. In fact it would be the kind of picture that Reagan himself might have starred in during his own Hollywood days—as the hero, the gritty American, the one man who sees the truth, the loner holding out against all odds for what is right. The kind of role that, in an "A picture," went to Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, or Randolph Scott.
Instead, Reagan is going to be played by Michael Douglas who, while not a bad actor, is not exactly the kind of guy one immediately thinks of as presidential material even though, as mentioned, he played one in a Hollywood liberal fantasy about what Bill Clinton ought to be and how he should really act.
When it comes to Reagan, who lived a classically American life, there's been no Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Sunrise at Campobello, or PT 109 for him despite how his life story seems tailor made for the big screen: born in poverty in Illinois, worked his way through college, got into radio, then the movies, selected by his colleagues to lead their union in its battle with the studio bosses, twice became governor of California, and then, at an age when most people thought he was finished, all washed up, came back to win the presidency of the United States … twice … and by the largest electoral margin in history. Instead we get movies and mini-series that do a hatchet job on history, with the lead invariably played by someone who hates the man in real life. Casting a Reagan "critic" like Douglas is emblematic of how Hollywood liberals feel about the man from Tampico. As producer Mark Joseph, who has his own film about Reagan in the works, observed, "There they go again."
Douglas, like many of his colleagues who were in front of the camera in the 1980s, had nothing good to say about Reagan, nothing at all. His portrayal of Gordon Gecko was widely viewed by movie critics, professors of political science at elite universities, news commentators, and just about everyone else as an attack on Reagan's economic policies—especially the infamous "greed is good" speech that comes midway through the film. The Hollywood version of those days, which influence our perception of what the Reagan years were like, even today, is that the rich got super-rich while everyone else got poorer which, in turn, forced people to live on the streets. It was certainly the view Douglas expressed when he did the publicity tour for the film. Fortunately those who know the truth, who have looked at the data, know that the rich indeed got richer but so did the poor. Almost everyone did better under Reagan, certainly better than they had been doing under his predecessor and better than they did under several of his successors as well.
The idea that everybody loves Reagan is a myth created by liberals who want to use him—now dead, buried, and belonging to the ages—as a weapon to pound his political successors over the head. Hence the nonsense that passed for smart analysis that "even Ronald Reagan" could not have been nominated for president in 2012 because his party had moved too far to the right.
This is not the first time Hollywood has attacked Reagan—and it probably won't be the last. Aside from the infamous and failed mini-series starring James Brolin—husband of liberal diva Barbara Streisand—there have been countless references in films to Reagan being a criminal, an idiot, a national embarrassment, and the cause of just about everything that is wrong in the world today. Great man, strong leader, and, were it not for his policies, someone who would have been a great president. Sheesh. Get me rewrite.